Uncooperative moulding plane advice

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  • #768018
    Carl Critchlow
    Participant

    Hi there,
    I wonder if anyone on this forum can give me some guidance about how to get a recently purchased moulding plane to behave as it should.

    I’m pretty new to hand tool woodworking and have found Mr Seller’s videos and blog extremely useful and would firstly like to thank him and the team for such a fantastic resource.

    Most of my woodworking involves repairs to old furniture and Victorian/Edwardian house renovations – I have a small collection of moulding planes which I have successfully used to make my own skirting boards and add authentic details to built in cupboards etc.. I recently decided to up my game somewhat and make a casement window frame to replace an ugly plastic one on the back of my house. I managed to source a suitable looking plane on eBay and when it arrived the profile turned out to be a perfect match for the one used on the existing house windows so I’m keen to get it to work.

    Unfortunately, I’ve had no success with it at all – I think I might possibly have worked out the problem, but would like conformation I’m on the right track (or if not, happy to be put right) before wading in any further….

    I think on previous sharpenings the leading cutter might have been left too long, so it protrudes too much, tears the timber rather than producing a nice clean cut and throwing the plane off course. If you adjust the blade to account for this, the bottom section (on the photos) of the curve doesn’t clear the sole and acts as a stop preventing the rest of the blade from engaging. I’m wondering if I grind the leading section down to produce a better match for the sole profile this might solve the problem (or at least help).

    I’ve attached a couple of photos to (hopefully) show what I mean – any help much appreciated!

    Many thanks,

    Carl

    #768060
    YrHenSaer
    Participant

    From your photos It appears to me that previous owners have carried out some unsympathetic sharpening. In other words – as you’ve worked out – the blade and the sole-profile don’t match and the mis-match allows the bed profile to bottom out and stop cutting.

    It is easy to attack the blade in isolation and to try reforming the profile, but that plane is definitely pre-war in age…… probably pre-Boer-War….. and personally I would start with the sole. Just reforming the blade profile in isolation is unlikely to give good results. Give it a complete re-hab!

    Ensure that the whole of the base profile is dead flat from toe to heel. Lay a straight edge along each part of the curve and the side sides and sight it for gaps. Given the age of the plane I would be surprised if it is flat. Carefully running a straight edge along it with some carbon paper attached will help identify any high spots and it is wise to deal with these first. Nothing more than a gentle scrape with a squared blade. NEVER use sand paper! It is vital that the area of the sole that surrounds the moth, back and front, is in contact with the work when you have finished. If this part is raised off the work the iron cannot cut correctly.

    When the sole is clean and flat end-to-end, reprofile the iron. This means undoing previous sharpening work and filing the edge back so that it exactly matches the sole profile when you sight along the plane. This will inevitably result in flat sections along the cutting edge and it is now that you re-file back the bevel, ensuring that at each point it is at the same angle to the profile. Polish the back and finish it with fine slip stones to get a good cutting edge.

    A lot of work, but it will be worth it to give that old tool a working life back. Good luck.

    #768066
    Ed
    Participant

    I suggest a slightly different approach than that of YrHenSaer as it can be quite technical to adjust the sole of the plane, yet it is quite possible that the sole is perfectly adequate even if one can detect imperfections. Therefore, I suggest that you simply address the blade and try it. I would not mess with the sole unless forced to do so.

    Wood shrinks, metal doesn’t. It is common to find old planes in which the iron appears to be too wide for the plane. On hollows and rounds, the blade will commonly project beyond the width of the plane body making it difficult to join up profiles and making one portion of the cut too light and the other portion too coarse. Or, it can cause the corner of the blade to dig tracks into the work no matter how you set the plane.

    If you have machinists marking fluid, paint the back of the iron, let it dry, and then load the iron and wedge into the plane. Use a long slender scribe, perhaps an awl, to trace the profile of the sole onto the back of the iron. Have this in mind when you load the iron. You want a minimal amount of iron projecting in order to reduce grinding, but you need enough that you don’t miss spots with the scribing. In the ideal world, you will literally work to the scribe line, just removing it in the grinding, and there will be a few spots that have practically zero grinding. In practice, the scribe line may be back of the edge a bit and is just a guide. Try for the ideal. If you don’t have marking fluid, you may be able to use a wide sharpie, but it may be hard to scratch into the sharpie.

    You will be scribing across the gap of the mouth onto the back of the blade, which can be awkward, but that is what must be done. Have the wedge in place. Don’t try to have the blade loose and pressed up against the breast angle of the mouth in an attempt to avoid scribing over the mouth gap. You’ll get the wrong profile. Plane makers often fabricate a scribe that is flat on one edge to ride float along the sole, but tapers to a point from the other side. A skinny awl won’t be perfect, but it will be more than adequate.

    If you use a grinder to work the profile, it is best to set the grinding table at close to 90 degrees while you grind the shape. Once the shape is ground in, you then set the grinder table to the appropriate bevel angle and grind in the bevel, ideally not changing the shape (profile) at all and leaving just a whisper of a (flat) line that you grind and hone by hand. If you try to shape while grinding at the bevel angle, you will almost certainly overheat the metal at the edge.

    So, I would address the blade first. Even if you find that you want to dress the profile, it shouldn’t be so much change that it would affect the blade profile much, if at all. Personally, I’d be very wary of adjusting the profile. It’s tricky. I would definitely hold a rule up to the plane to see that the toe and heel are in line and not in twist, but if they aren’t there’s little you can do and the plane might function passably anyway. When buying planes, I check for toe and heel being in line first thing and reject the plane if they aren’t because it can be the death of the plane. Your photos look good, though, although I can only see a small portion of the plane.

    Don’t forget: When the blade is loaded, you want the edge of the blade pressed dead tight against the side of the plane / mortise. Make sure you load the blade like this when you trace the profile. I’ve actually skipped a step, which is to inspect and correct the bedding of the iron, both in terms of how it rests on its face and how it mates with the mortise and wedge along its side and back. I’m going to gamble that those are fine for your plane, but you should inspect to make sure that the iron loads dead tight against the side of the mortise, that there isn’t any grunge in there holding it away from the wall or making it rock or not load identically time to time.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 6 days ago by Ed.
    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 6 days ago by Ed.
    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 6 days ago by Ed.
    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 6 days ago by Ed.
    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 6 days ago by Ed.
    #768119
    Carl Critchlow
    Participant

    Hello again,

    Many thanks to you both (YrHenSaer and Ed) for taking the time to help with this – very much appreciated!

    I checked the sole and the alignment seems OK overall – certainly within tolerance for someone at my skill level (see photo). The only two areas showing signs of wear are the back of one of the pointed sections/runners (not sure of the correct technical term) which has worn down about 1-2mm – well away from the mouth and I would imagine this could be compensated for (to some degree) by keeping the front of the plane down when making a pass and the guide face/fence (again, not sure of the correct term) – next to the ‘I’ stamp on the final photo and corresponding to the vertical spring line (?) which registers correctly on the very corner but leaves room for more play than I’ve experienced on other similar planes. I’m not sure if this second problem needs to/could be corrected (and the best way to go about it if so) or if it just requires a steady hand until the rest of the cutter starts to bite, but even so I would be surprised if either of these issues would cause the dire results I’ve achieved so far – I would’ve been better off using my teeth!!

    With the above in mind I turned my attention to the blade – no engineer’s blue I’m afraid so I attached some masking tape to the back of the blade and was able to draw a fairly accurate line with a sharp pencil (see photo). I intend to trim the tape to the line with a scalpel and use that as a guide when grinding. As you can see there are a couple of areas that need quite a bit of reshaping so I hope that will improve matters.

    That’s as far as I’ve got so far – I’ll send more photos as I progress, any further comments or advice much appreciated.

    Thanks again,

    Carl

    #768132
    Ed
    Participant

    Looks good. Some of those old irons can be worked with a file. You might try that first. Otherwise, you need a narrow enough grinding wheel to get into convex curve. If you do use a grinder, keep an eye on that tape just in case heat or water causes the tape to move. If you cut the tape as you mentioned, you might run a sharpie line along the tape, just in case.

    It is hard to see how the previous owner made that plane cut since the profile is so far off. Big arms, I guess. It must have been a favorite plane because, as a guess, it looks like the profile error is just from a lot of sharpening.

    Do you know about putting wax onto the sole frequently during use to reduce wear? I have a hunk of canning wax (you can find it in grocery stores and hardware stores in the US. Gulf is a common brand).

    #768188
    YrHenSaer
    Participant

    Good to see you taking the time to do it.

    I’m intrigued by picture 8. This shows the ‘spring’ lines – the angle at which the plane is held to the work to produce the profile. It is marked by the two lines at right angles on the heel of the plane.

    There are two ‘flat’ sections of the sole, one on the base, the other on the right side, that should be at right angles; one rests against the side of the work, the other acts as a depth stop when the profile is completed. Usually the spring lines connect these two sections.

    Anyway, it’s worth pointing out that these profile planes were intended as a finishing tool once the profile had been roughed to approximate shape with a combination of rebate and groove planes – not to cut the whole thing in one lengthy go.

    There are few books on the subject, but this one by Matthew Bickford outlines the whole thing from start to finish. It’s aimed at Hollows and Rounds, but examines the geometry of mouldings and how to make complex shapes simply with basic tools.

    “Mouldings In Practice”


    It’s worth every penny and will save you a lot of re-invention of various wheels.

    Good luck

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 5 days ago by YrHenSaer.
    #768329
    Carl Critchlow
    Participant

    Thanks again for all the feedback – much appreciated!

    Ed : I take your point about the tape moving, so trimmed it first and then marked the blade with a sharpie – then I removed the tape altogether and worked to the black line on the photo. I have a small hand cranked grinder (I’m sure I’ve seen Paul use one in one of his videos) which I used for the straights, and a Dremel type multi tool which I used for the curved sections then finished off with an oilstone and progressively fine grades of wet and dry paper wrapped round a thin dowel. Seemed to work OK but I think I was a little over cautious and will need another session before it’s usable – if the lead cutter is adjusted to make a clean pass, the curve is still not clearing the sole 100% – now looks like I’ve used a blunt penknife rather than my teeth, so progress of sorts 😉

    YrHenSaer: Thanks for the tip about the book. If I manage to crack this one I’ll put it on my Christmas list – plenty of other Lost Art Press books too as well as tons of other stuff on the Classic hand Tools site :). I’ve attached some more photos of the spring lines following on from your previous comments. It seems to me that’s possibly another area causing the plane to misbehave, as you can see, the corresponding registration faces are far from 90 degrees to each other and even though the corner sits nicely, there’s still a lot of sideways play unlike most of the other moulding planes I’ve used. I was wondering about trying to true this face up and adding an infill piece to get it back to where it should be, but I’m not sure I’m up to that level yet (or if it would work).

    After reading your comments about roughing out first I tried cutting two rebates along a practice piece and roughing out the curve with a block plane before starting – seems like it might be the way to go but until I’ve got the blade profile right it’s hard to tell.

    Thanks again to you both for all the advice and taking the time to share your knowledge – I’ll be taking a break from this for a few days while fitting a fireplace (before getting back to the window!!) once I’m back in the shed I’ll let you know how I get on!

    Carl

    #768352
    Ed
    Participant

    This is odd. I’ve posted twice with further comments, but the comments never turned up. I tried sending a PM to you, but received an error message. I wonder if this post will go through?

    #768385
    Carl Critchlow
    Participant

    Hi Ed,
    Saw this last message but nothing else – hope you can get it to work and thanks for persevering.

    Looking forward to more feedback, and apologies for not thanking you last time for the tip about waxing the sole – nothing as specialised as ‘canning wax’ here in the UK, but I do have a big lump from an old candle that I use (both appear to be paraffin wax from what I can work out).

    Thanks again,

    Carl

    #768456
    Ed
    Participant

    This is bizarre. I just tried posting the missing info and the post did not show up. Wonder if this one will.

    #768457
    Ed
    Participant

    I’m trying to tell you about a video by Bill Anderson about refurbishing moulding planes. Let’s see if this minimal posting goes through….

    #768458
    Ed
    Participant

    Choosing, Refurbishing and Using Moulding Planes with Bill Anderson

    #768460
    Ed
    Participant

    Got there in the end. There are three missing posts. I wonder if they will show up at some point? Maybe something in them flags them for review by a moderator?

    #768507
    Carl Critchlow
    Participant

    Hi Ed,
    Many thanks for your continued perseverance – much appreciated! Maybe it’s something to do with links to external sites (especially if they’re selling something)?
    Done a quick search and found the trailer on YouTube – there are a few pointers in that and it’s less than 2 minutes – 4 and a half hours should cover everything you’d ever need to know!! Looks like a great watch (although maybe a bit specialist to be topping the Netflix charts ;)) If I manage to sort this one out I might well pick it up (and find out what I should’ve done first time round!).

    Thanks again for taking the time to pass this information on – if there are still any missing posts with more thoughts hope they turn up eventually!

    Carl

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